Standard at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir

Posted in Perilous Research on April 16, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. Last weekend, the greatest Magic players in the world convened in Belgium for Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. Going forward, the knowledge we've gained from last weekend's event will have some major consequences for the Standard format. Today, we'll be taking a look at the top-performing Standard decks from Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir.

It's easy to look at the Top 8 Standard lists and assume that these are the best performing Standard decks from the weekend. This is a common mistake, though. Oftentimes, the best performing Standard decks are forced to carry terrible Limited records on their backs. One must examine match records during the Standard rounds to get a clear picture of what Standard decks performed best at the Pro Tour.

We've been playing Standard with Dragons of Tarkir for a few weeks now, but the format will undergo drastic changes as we enter next weekend. Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir encouraged the best deck builders in the world to study and experiment with Standard in an effort to find the strongest strategies. This week's decks will be polished weapons as opposed to hopeful hypotheses.

Let's take a look at the best performing Standard decks from Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir!

Brad Nelson's Abzan Aggro

Brad Nelson's Abzan Aggro—Pro Tour DTK

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Brad Nelson is probably the best Standard metagamer in the world. In fact, over the last 24 months, Nelson has a better than 60% chance to make the Top 8 of any Standard Grand Prix he enters. Nelson managed a 9-1 record through the Standard portion of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir with Abzan Aggro. Coming into the Pro Tour, Nelson wanted to be playing an established archetype so that he could maximize the value of his testing time with the new cards. Abzan Aggro has been one of the decks to beat in Standard since last autumn, but the new version of the deck takes advantage of powerful tools from Dragons of Tarkir like Ultimate Price; Dromoka's Command; and Surrak, the Hunt Caller. Ultimate Price provides the deck with an efficiently costed answer to decks like red-green and devotion strategies. Surrak, the Hunt Caller gives the deck a level of explosiveness that forces opponents to play differently from how they might have in the past. Siege Rhino may represent 3 points of life loss the turn it comes into play, but Surrak, the Hunt Caller turns that number into 7, and it's going to be difficult to hang on to a game if the player with 3/3s for two mana is dishing out 7 points of unexpected, hasty damage. Dromoka's Command provides the deck with incredible versatility: acting as a cheap removal spell, main deck enchantment removal, and another source of incidental card advantage. Dromoka's Command will likely be moving to sideboards after the success of blue-black control strategies last weekend. Despite incredible versatility, the card is very weak against control decks and it's looking like those will be a big part of the new Standard.

Chester Swords's Abzan Midrange

Chester Swords's Abzan Midrange—Pro Tour DTK

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Chester Swords put up a 9-1 record through the Standard portion of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir with a midrange Abzan deck that correctly identified the strength of Tasigur, the Golden Fang in the new Standard. The deck has a lot of degenerate draws involving Satyr Wayfinder and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. By combining the best removal, disruption, and threats, Abzan Midrange is never in an unwinnable matchup.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Blue-Black Control

Josh Utter-Leyton's Blue-Black Control—Pro Tour DTK

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Former Player of the Year Joshua Utter-Leyton has been one of the best players in the world for quite some time. Utter-Leyton put up a 9-1 record with a Blue-Black Control deck that splashed white for Dragonlord Ojutai. It's also worth noting that many of Utter-Leyton's teammates also put up stellar results with this deck. The deck was likely the best-performing strategy in the event. Blue-black control has been a worthwhile Standard strategy for months, but the addition of Dragonlord Ojutai completely changes the deck's success rate in a large tournament. Dragonlord Ojutai allows players to cut expensive card draw because it provides a strong card advantage engine on its own. Dragonlord Ojutai also lets the control player win games in a reasonable time frame instead of forcing them to wait around forever for a single copy of Pearl Lake Ancient.

Joey Manner's Green-White Devotion

Joey Manner's Green-White Devotion—Pro Tour DTK

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Green Devotion strategies playing white for Mastery of the Unseen exploded onto the Standard scene a few weeks ago. Joey Manner put up an impressive 8-1-1 record with the strategy. The deck applies quick pressure by ramping into threats that absolutely must be dealt with. The best part about the strategy is that many single cards have the ability to win the game on their own. Whisperwood Elemental represents a lot of cards and gives the deck more resistance to board-sweeping effects, and Mastery of the Unseen ensures that the pilot will never run out of threats.

Ondrej Strasky's Green Devotion

Ondrej Strasky's Green Devotion—Pro Tour DTK

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Ondrej Strasky managed an 8-1-1 record with a different flavor of Green Devotion. Instead of playing Mastery of the Unseen, Strasky used See the Unwritten to power out terrifying things like Surrak, the Hunt Caller and Dragonlord Atarka at the same time. Again, a lot of the individual threats in the deck have the ability to win the game on their own. The deck seems like a great strategy if blue-black control players cut one Crux of Fate in the coming week in an effort to be stronger against the mirror.

Sam Black's Bees!

Sam Black's Bees!—Pro Tour DTK

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Platinum Professional Sam Black put up an 8-2 record with a crazy brew that aims to fight dragons with Hornet Nest. The deck is just a red-green ramp strategy that goes over the top of other creature decks by producing huge amounts of deathtouching flyers. Against control strategies, the deck tries to sneak a Planeswalker underneath the opponent's countermagic and parlay that into victory.

Christiano Christo's Mono-Red

Christiano Christo's Mono-Red—Pro Tour DTK

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Christiano Christo went 8-2 with a Mono-Red deck that's dedicated to reducing the opponent's life total from 20 to 0 in the shortest time frame possible. From the look of the new red decks, it seems that Gather Courage is likely a better sideboard choice than Nylea's Disciple in the coming weeks. Red decks will continue to do well, especially if blue-black strategies become a large-enough part of the metagame to actively prey upon with a hyper-aggressive strategy.

Bram Snapvangers's Green Devotion Aggro

Bram Snapvangers's Green Devotion Aggro—Pro Tour DTK

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Hall of Famer Bram Snapvangers went 8-2 with an aggressive version of the Green Devotion deck. Instead of going big, Snapvangers decided to go underneath his opponents and use Collected Company, one of the most exciting cards from Dragons of Tarkir to punch through the final strike. Aspect of Hydra serves as a massive pump spell in this deck and gives the strategy a way to win games seemingly out of nowhere. This seems like one of the most exciting strategies for the new Standard going forward.

With Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir in the books, the new Standard is finally taking shape. It seems, based on the given information, that Blue-Black Control decks with Dragonlord Ojutai will be the best-positioned strategies in the coming week. It's important to have a strong plan for control matchup, regardless of your deck choice, if you're aiming to be competitive this weekend. Red decks will continue to match up well against the control strategies. It seems that our current goal is to find a strategy that's strong against both the expected configuration of Red and Blue-Black. What's your plan for Standard this coming weekend?

Knowledge is power!

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